Sunday, August 10, 2008

Some Protestants find spiritual appeal in natural family planning

Here is the start of an interesting article from the Austin-American Statesman regarding how Natural Family Planning, often seen as being a "Catholic" method of birth control, is actually a viable option for Protestant Christians.

While I applaud the writer's approach to find some common ground between Catholics and Protestants regarding Natural Family Planning, especially the point that there are great benefits to utilizing the NFP method, not all facts in the article are correct.

Let me quickly state that the use of NFP, if done correctly, is more effective than any other method of birth control. When Mother Theresa was teaching the NFP method to Muslims and Hindus in Calcutta, they had a pregnancy rate of 0.004%. You can't get better results from any other method, but you can get all the undesirable and harmful side-effects of those other methods.

Secondly, one of the women interviewed (Tietz, a Baptist who lives in Oklahoma) stated that she did not believe that the pill causes abortions. I wish the writer had carried the balanced point that there is plenty of evidence to indicate that "the pill" kills.

Lastly, Sam and Bethany Torode spoke of the "dark side" of NFP being the extended periods of abstinence that they felt was more harmful to their marriage than good. I don't know for certain, but I'm almost willing to bet that they were sexually active before getting married. I say this because their statement implies that the welfare of their relationship rests on their ability to have sex whenever they desire. They fail to see that periods of abstinence are opportunities to build upon other aspects of their relationship together.

For those that would suggest that I'm full of hot air on this point, that being married means having the ability to have sex whenever they want, I'd like to point out that any couple that refrained from having sexual relations prior to marriage is also capable of refraining from sexual relations inside of marriage. For those that refrained prior to marriage, their relationship was apparently strong enough and built upon many other common ties that led them to the altar for marriage. I have a hard time believing that their relationship would be somehow weaker inside of marriage that they couldn't still rely on those other relational aspects. And even in those relationships where pre-marital sex and sex-on-demand have been a part of their relationship, NFP provides a wonderful opportunity to explore those other relational aspects in greater depth.

My wife adds that having the ability to abstain from sex during those fertile periods is also an excellent exercise at controling sexual urges. Why is this important? Well, if you can abstain from sex within marriage, you can also resist sexual urges that may come from a person that tempts you to have an affair.

After reading this article, I invite you to review the resources in my earlier post on this topic to learn more about Natural Family Planning. Be sure to also learn more about the relationship-building benefits of NFP, not just the fertility aspects of NFP.

Taking a page from Catholic doctrine, Protestants are avoiding artificial contraception for religious reasons

By Eileen E. Flynn

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Phaedra Taylor abstained from sex until marriage. But she began researching birth control methods before she was even engaged, and by the time she married David Taylor, she was already charting her fertility.

Taylor, a fresh-faced 28-year-old who would blend in easily with South Austin bohemians, ruled out taking birth control pills after reading a book that claimed the pill could, in some cases, make the uterus uninhabitable after conception occurred. She viewed that as abortion, which she opposes.

"I just wasn't willing to risk it," she said.

Taylor wanted her faith to guide her sexual and reproductive decisions after marriage. Natural family planning felt like the best way to honor God, she said.

The Taylors are one of several couples at Hope Chapel — a nondenominational church where David Taylor, 36, was the arts minister for 12 years — who practice natural family planning. Christian scholars say they may reflect a growing trend among non-Catholic Christians who are increasingly seeking out natural alternatives to artificial contraception.

Natural family planning is frequently dismissed by Protestants as an outmoded Catholic practice that most Catholics don't even follow anymore. But 40 years after Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae, the document outlining the church's position on marital sex and procreation, the method and the theology behind it are earning respect among some young Protestants, according to Christian scholars.

The 1968 papal encyclical explains the church's interpretation of the moral and natural laws, which includes a prohibition against artificial contraception but allows couples who want to plan their children to "take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse ... during those times that are infertile."

This approach, for years known as the rhythm method because it relied on a calendar to track a woman's ovulation based on past cycles, underwent improvements over the years, becoming a more reliable system known as natural family planning.

The natural family planning movement among Protestants is difficult to quantify, but there appears to be growing interest, said the Rev. Amy Laura Hall, a Methodist minister and associate professor at Duke Divinity School.


Once again, I invite you to review the resources in my earlier post on this topic to learn more about Natural Family Planning.

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